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Kevin O’Connell wants Kirk Cousins to embrace his ability to extend plays

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell talks about bringing Brian Flores on as defensive coordinator, observations of Kirk Cousins in their second year together and more.

During a Tuesday interview of Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell on #PFTPM, O’Connell was asked two specific questions about quarterback Kirk Cousins.

First, what is his best attribute for which he doesn’t get enough credit. Second, what can he do to improve in 2023?

As to the second question, O’Connell pointed to one thing -- Cousins trusting his ability to make plays with his legs.

“I think he showed it at times last year,” O’Connell said, “but that athleticism to maybe not impact the game the way some of the great athletes that are playing quarterback in the NFL right now impact, but there are some plays where I think he doesn’t give himself enough credit of his ability to extend.

“I think back to that red-zone scramble for a touchdown against the Cardinals last year on a critical third down or even keeping drives alive, stealing a first down. When I call a bad play and he’s got nobody there to convert and he finds a way to extend the play and maybe use his legs to either get that first down or extend a play and make a playoff schedule with his arm, I think he’s capable of doing those things and I think he’s -- that’s going to be something his comfort, his understanding year one to year two you just have that much more awareness of not only where your eleven guys are on the field, but defensively how it all works together and you can continue by any means necessary to attack whatever voids and vacancies may be out there for us on each individual play.”

On the positive side, O’Connell raised two points.

“Well, to me he’s got two things that are main requirements that I believe to play quarterback in the NFL,” O’Connell said. “He’s extremely accurate and he’s tough and durable. I don’t know if you can really, quantitatively put that second part into a statistic. I can just tell you that he’s played a lot of football in his career. He consistently is out there every Sunday competing to win football games and can handle the rigors of playing the quarterback position in an NFL offense where we put a lot on his plate. He has a ton to do with our success as an offense and then you can just never undervalue the ability to throw the football at a world-class level and put it where you want to put it location-wise.

“You think back to some of the big throws he made a year ago in critical moments that won us a lot of football games. You know, when we win 13 games, you can go back and find throws that I don’t think a lot of people are making at that type of level, consistent-wise, playing in this position from an NFL pocket, and being able to do the things that that we ask him to do, which are a lot. So, I think those two things are the starting point and then we can get into a lot of as far as his ability to process information, his understanding of defenses, and then ultimately just his ability to run the show and be one of our core leaders of our football team.”

Whether Cousins continues to be Minnesota’s quarterback beyond 2023 remains to be seen. He does have a chance to build on his first year with O’Connell, and to make it obvious to everyone in the organization that Cousins should keep the job he has held since 2018 beyond what will be his sixth season in Minnesota.